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Last week I posted my Western Conference preview. It took me a while to gather my thoughts for the East preview because I've been going back-and-forth with my buddy in Canada and our convo was almost exclusively about the East. So I kinda exhausted all my East energy.

But now, I'm recharged and ready to take on the very confusing East. Off the top of my head, there are probably 10 teams with a realistic chance of making the Playoffs... That's not counting the Bobcats and New York, who could really surprise us all.

But enough talk, here's my thoughts on all the East teams.

1. Detroit Pistons - Basically the same roster as before. They supposedly have some young players waiting in the wings, but I doubt they'll make that big of an impact. This team still heavily relies on their starting lineup, but losing C-Webb (for the time being) will be a big blow. I really cant figure out why Mohammed doesn't fit the Pistons, but oh well. This is still a very solid team, although I believe the window has closed the moment Ben Wallace left for Chicago.

2. Miami Heat - The Heat!!! I can't believe what's happened to this franchise... I know they won a championship then, but I just knew that acquiring Antoine Walker and Jason Williams would blow up in their faces somewhere down the road. And this season might be that. Dwyane Wade's injury seems to get worse with every report I read, and Shaq recently suffered an injury of his own. If your healthiest player right now was once a new kidney recipient, you know there's trouble. Losing Kapono was huge, but I dont think he justified the money given to him, anyways. I don't really hate the Heat, but I have a really hard time liking them. This is a confused franchise... They are good enough to be considered contenders (mostly because of the "name" of their players) but are really mediocre. All hope rests on Wade's (aching) shoulders. Note: What if they somehow acquired Damon Stoudamire?

3. Boston Celtics - There are lots of people out there who took the conservative route and were slow in giving them credit, choosing instead to focus on their thin bench. But any time you put three HOF-qualit y players on one team, they will be good. Really good. People tell me to look at what happened to Lakers in '04. But remember, they had a Karl Malone nearing retirement, a Gary Payton that was nowhere near what he was in Seattle, and a feuding Kobe and Shaq. That will not happen in Boston, as KG and Ray Allen are two of the most professional guys out there. And please, don't forget that they are still in their primes! And in Ray's case, you dont lose your shooting touch with age. I dont think they can finish atop the East because they will obviously have to go through growing pains, but by the end of the season, we shall recognize them as the best in the East.

4. Toronto Raptors - From top to bottom, this is one of the best-built teams out there. When Jose Calderon (who could start for half of the teams in the L) is your back-up PG, you know you've done a great job. Not that Colangelo needs my seal of approval. Once again, they will depend on Bosh to lead them to the playoffs. I have no problem in believing that... But I am concerned about his health. Seems like he just cant stay completely healthy. And for a team that is really young when you think about it, they will need a leader. Signing Jason Kapono and Carlos Delfino was smart, but they aren't franchise-changing. In some ways, I think of them as somewhat similar to the Bulls. Very solid all-around, but you have to wonder how far they can take it. Good thing they have Chris Bosh, though.

5. Charlotte Bobcats - Is Jason Richardson really the go-to guy they were looking for? In my opinion, no. The guy is nice and exciting, but I just can't see him as someone who you can expect to lead a team. He's sort of like a poor man's Vince Carter, and that's not really good. It's more of a "best player available" scenario, and they were just the team with the money to spend. And I don't really get the signing of Matt Carroll when you already have Ammo. Have they given up on him already? But they have a pretty good foundation in place. Re-signing G Wallace was nice, and Felton should break out this year. Okafor is a beast down low, and it's so hard to find one of those right now. Maybe not this year, but I expect them to make the Playoffs next year.

6. Washington Wizards - First off, just want to wish Etan Thomas a speedy recovery. As for the Wiz, it's still a three-man show, although I have been hearing a lot of good reports about Andray Blatche lately. If he can develop into a Gerald Wallace-type of player, they should be very happy. Gilbert Arenas will continue his dominance (in a contract year, no less) and we can expect consistent production from Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. All in all, this team is basically the same as last year's. Which is good, in a way. But not enough to get them anywhere near a championship. Still, though, it should be a fun ride.

7. Chicago Bulls - Welcome to Kobe Bryant's next home!!!! I know I may be getting ahead of myself over here, but Bryant going to the Bulls would be a match made in heaven. As for this season, they should also be (almost) the same team like before. They have a really good set of players, but I dont know... Something about them screams "Not good enough to be champs!!!". I think it was pretty stubborn of the GM (John or Jim?) to not trade for KG. So I hope they don't miss the opportunity to land KB24. Ben Gordon is good, but he's very streaky, although he is becoming more consistent. Kirk Hinrich is a pretty good PG, but I can't see him leading his team a la Deron Williams. Ben Wallace is slowing down, but it's nice to have backups like Noah and Ty Thomas. But I wonder: Are the Bulls silently regretting trading away LaMarcus Aldridge?

8. Orlando Magic - WTF?!?! 118 million $ for Rashard Lewis?!?! Cot damn, what was that all about? You would think the Magic would be happy to chill for now and use the newly-created cap room to build around Dwight Howard. Instead, they signed oft-injured forward Shard Lewis to a ridiculously expensive and long deal. He's not Allan Houston, but he's not exactly LeBron either. And as a result, they had to let go of Darko Milicic. You really have to question this franchise-crippling move, as they will now have no flexibilty at all. I just don't know what came over them. They better hope Lewis stays healthy (which he isn't right now) and plays to his "max player" (HA!!!) status. Jameer Nelson is a good point guard, but a part of me thinks this is as good as he can get. In 2 years, they will regret signing Lewis the same way they did with Grant Hill. Stupid.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers - It's still all about LeBron. And now, more than ever, he will have to carry the team for a full season. The Cavs are a really good defensive team, but they can't hide the fact that they are offensively-limited. Zydrunas is quickly aging before our eyes, and Gooden somehow can't stay consistent. Add to that the fact that Varejao and Pavlovic may not come back at all, and you have a team that could go from East Champs to not being mentioned as contenders. Daniel Gibson must prove his worth now that he is expected to play more, and Devin Brown was a good signing. Why can't he stay in one team, I will never know. Other than that, I can't get too excited about them. Not saying LeBron will go to New York, but he will definitely leave if things don't change.

10. Indiana Pacers - You know, this is actually the hardest-working team in the League. Why? Because they never seem to leave the treadmill they're on. Seriously, though, I dont really know what direction they're going. As a team, they are good enough to make the playoffs year in and year out, yet doesn't pose much of a threat to really challenge the big boys in the East. And with the East getting stronger, a first-round win is not expected anytime soon. Individually, they are facing the same dilemma. Jermaine O'Neal is good, but not elite. As good as he is, maybe it's time to anoint him as a very good role player instead of franchise player. Their second-best player, Danny Granger, is the same. Jamaal Tinsley is very good sometimes, sometimes not. The Pacers should make a decision now. Rebuild and tear down the core of the team or be satisified with semi-mediocrity? They should trade JO while he still has value.

11. Atlanta Hawks - This would be a very good team if only they had a Point Guard. Really. Just one really good point guard, and this team is a threat to make the Playoffs! Josh Smith is primed for a breakout year, although this is still (and should remain) Joe Johnson's team. Getting Al Horford was nice, and it was smart of them to not draft for need. He should be a great player down the line, but will probably struggle early. What can I say... This is a team with loads of potential, but it remains to be seen what will happen. I wish them success, if only because I like Joe Jo... But they still have a long way to go. Note: What if they traded for Luke Ridnour?

12. New Jersey Nets - They had to re-sign Vince Carter. Fail to do so, and you extremely limit Jason Kidd's options. It seems like Kidd will never age, so I expect the same numbers from him. The key here is health. If Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic all get to 100%, they should be a very scary team. And that's not counting Josh Boone, who showed last year that he is a decent ballplayer. Not re-upping Mikki Moore was very smart, and he won't be missed at all. Boston Snackbar seems to improving a lot, so he will be the first guy off the bench for the Nets. This team is exciting in the sense that they have highlight reels in Vince, Kidd, and Jefferson. Boring in the sense that I expect them to finish in the same way they did last season. But it got me to thinking, now might be the perfect time to trade Richard Jefferson for JO.

13. New York Knicks - What else is there to write about them, really? Just thinking of this team makes my head hurt, so I just have this to say... Please give David Lee the minutes he deserves.

14. Milwaukee Bucks - What is up with the Bucks getting players that have publicly declared their unwillingness to play for the franchise??? First, they draft Yi Jianlian, then they re-sign Charlie bell. Good thing Mo Williams decided to stick around, otherwise this might be the one of the most chaotic teams heading into the season. I actually applaud them for not giving into Yi's demands, but I seriously question re-signing Bell. Why sign a guy who didn't want to be there anymore? And more to the fact, why give Bell an 18.5 mil contract? Is he even worth that? Anyways, this is a good team, with enough versatility and firepower to make the Playoffs. Redd has shown he is capable of carrying the scoring load of the team, and Andrew Bogut should improve again. However, there are major questions regarding the team's health. No Playoffs this year, although the future looks bright.

15. Philadelphia 76ers - The worst team in the East. Andre Iguodala will put up great numbers, but you have to wonder how he will respond to defenses focusing on him extensively. Good thing he can pass it out to Kyle Korver, and better that Andre Miller is there to feed him easy baskets. However, Sammy Dalembert will probably never justify his enormous contract. The time is now to trade Andre Miller, so they can go full-blast on their rebuilding plans. It's going to be a long season in Philly...

Here are my picks to make the Playoffs.

1. Bulls
2. Celtics
3. Wizards
4. Pistons
5. Raptors
6. Cavaliers
7. Washington
8. Magic

Digg! BallHype: hype it up!


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